Archive for October, 2016

Sunday, October 8

[Update re: John Lennon tribute show discussed below. The Green Pajamas’ Joe Ross was kind enough to let me know which musicians played on the various songs. Since I am lazy, I just copied his email at the conclusion of this post.] 

Sunday would become the most intensely packed day of this trip…and most of it was cat-free.

After playing a little guitar on the Inn porch, and annoying some of the guests with an acoustic version of “Drain You,” I headed down to a bar called Buckley’s in Belltown. There, I would take in a football game, which started at 10 in the morning. That takes a little getting used to…drinking beer so early in the day.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles fan, who began following the team in 1975 when it was especially horrid. I had found that a group of 40-50 Eagles fans congregates each week at Buckley’s. So, I took the light rail from Capitol Hill to Westlake Center, and walked to Belltown from there. As I neared the bar, I saw two Eagles fans in front of me, one wearing a Brent Celek jersey (tight end), and the other donning an old school Randall Cunningham uniform. They almost got hit crossing one street, so I couldn’t resist shouting, “Figures, a couple of Eagles fans causing problems.” They turned around, saw the bird logo on my shirt and smiled. New friends.

I chatted with these guys, Matt and Brian, for most of the game (which the Birds unfortunately lost, 24-23). About an hour in, I mentioned how I heard about a new Eagles-fandom documentary called “Dallas Sucks” (we fucking hate the Dallas Cowboys, by the way, and their cockroach “fans” who live in Philly but have never been to Texas.) Matt smiled and said, “Brian’s the director of that documentary.” Wow. So apparently this Eagles thing will end up on Showtime soon. Brian (last name Bennett) is working on a Sun Records piece now. Life can be so incredibly cool sometimes. (Here’s a link to a story about the project:


(Fellow Eagles fans. From left: Matt Ferguson, Brian Bennett.)

After a bit of sulking following the Eagles loss, I headed over to get my burger fix at Two Bells Tavern. Jim Tillman from the U-Men told me about that place and yeah, their burgers rule.


Following that, it was off to Fremont to meet my writer friends Dave O’Leary and Clint Brownlee. Dave has written two fantastic novels: Horse Bite and The Music Book. Both are semi-autobiographical pieces centered around Seattle music, love, and coffee. I met Dave in 2011, during my book launch, which was about a week after Horse Bite came out. Both of these guys are the among the coolest people I know. Clint is working on a novel, and I’m excited to see how that comes out.

We met up at a Fremont bar called the George & Dragon, which is a pretty authentic English pub (except they wait on you and the beer is cold), owned by someone from the UK. It’s funny…I’ve only met Clint & Dave a few times, but they feel like old friends. When we get together, it seems like no time has passed, even though it’s been over a year. I wish I could hang out with them more often. Good people.


As it started to get late, Clint had to leave, and Dave invited me back to his place to watch the first debate. Sounded great…hang out, make fun of Trump, and enjoy some homemade lasagna. That was until I walked in the door. Guess what Dave has? That’s right, a cat. So, I had to leave. Again, why oh why does everyone in Seattle own a cat?

I headed back to Capitol Hill and grabbed a tuna sub at Subway for dinner. It reminded me of why I don’t eat at Subway. It sucked. (By the way, we call them hoagies in Philly. Don’t ask for a “sub” here.) But things were about to get better.

Over in West Seattle at a small bar called the Parliament Tavern, a group of musicians gathered together to put on a tribute show to John Lennon, as Sunday was his birthday. Leading the group were two stellar long-time Seattle players: Joe Ross of the Green Pajamas and John Olufs of Red Dress. Early Green Pajamas…we’re talking 1984…were heavily influenced by the Beatles. Red Dress, well I’ve written a lot about them on this blog. They are kind of like James Brown meets Frank Zappa, played with sort of a Band aesthetic.


(Joe Ross of the Green Pajamas [second from left], and John Olufs of Red Dress, lead the John Lennon tribute show.)

The band offered up the Beatles repertoire more or less chronologically. The crowd of course loved it and sang along because: a) you’ve got some of the best musicians in Seattle playing it and b) it’s the freaking Beatles. Joining Joe and John at different times were James Burdyshaw, of the 64 Spiders and Cat Butt. James did a nice acoustic version of Dear Prudence, then went electric and killed it on Yer Blues.


(James Burdyshaw of 64 Spiders and Cat Butt performing “Dear Prudence.”)

One of the many highlights of the evening happened when the stage was cleared for Laura Weller-Vanderpool and Bonnie Hammond, also known as Capping Day. Capping Day had some wonderful songs in the late ’80s, done in sort of an Indigo Girls harmony style…none better than “Mona Lisa.” Anyway, they did “Across the Universe,” which actually brought tears to some of the fans. I was sitting with Chad Channing from Nirvana, who said it is his favorite Beatles song.


(Capping Day plays “Across the Universe.” From left: Bonnie Hammond and Laura Weller-Vanderpool.)

The band played a little past midnight. Such a wonderful way to conclude this trip…well, pretty much conclude. Monday would turn out to be a chill day before catching an early flight home on Tuesday. To repeat my Facebook post, I want to thank everyone for another fantastic Seattle visit. I look forward to seeing you again next year.


(Looking out across the water from Fremont.)

Update: List of players in John Lennon tribute show, from Joe Ross FB message.

The core band, besides me and John, was Kelly Van Camp on drums and Sean Wheatley on bass. Other guests up were: Mike Geglia and his son Mike jr., also Bill Preib did I’m only sleeping and Rachelle Write did I call your name.

Here’s the sets (37 songs) pretty much as they went down: Set one: working class hero JOE (Am) I’ll Cry Instead KELLY (G) I should have known better KELLY (G) You can’t do that KELLY (G) When I Get Home MIKE G. (C) One After 909 MIKE G. + MIKE jr. (B) A Hard Day’s Night MIKE G. + MIKE jr. (G) this boy KELLY (D) No reply JOE (C) I’m a loser JOE (G) I call your name RACHELLE (key G) I don’t want to spoil the party GAIL + JOE (G) Set two: across the universe LAURA V. + BONNIE (D) You’ve got to hide your love away KELLY (G) help JOE + KELLY + GAIL (A) I Feel Fine MIKE G. + KELLY (G) Ticket To Ride MIKE G. + KELLY (A) Nowhere Man MIKE G. + KELLY (E) Girl JOE (Cm) come together RON B. (D) in my life RON B. (A) she said she said KELLY (Bb) I’m only sleeping BILL P. (Em) rain JOE (G) I Am The Walrus JOE (A) set three: revolution JOE (A) dear Prudence JAMES B. (D) yer blues JAMES B. (E) Ballad of John and Yoko JOE (E) Don’t let me down JOE cold turkey JOE (Am) I’m so tired JOE (A) instant karma JOE (A) imagine JOE (C) I dig a pony JOHN (A) all you need is love KELLY + everyone (G) tomorrow never knows (C)
oh yeah, Ron Bailey sang Come Together and In My Life.


Let me begin by saying, why can’t everyone in Seattle own a dog? I like dogs. I have two. I’m not allergic to them. So, in other words, why can’t people construct their lifestyles around my health needs? Is that really asking too much?

Ok, so we’re up to Saturday, October 8. For the most part, this day turned out to be fairly mellow. After breakfast, I hung out on the front porch and played my rented Taylor for about an hour. A neighbor came by with his young daughter and said, “We heard you playing. Mind if we listen for a while?” I’m like, “Sure. As long as you don’t mind some acoustic death metal.” (I didn’t actually say that.) Anyway, that was very cool. The neighbor’s daughter spun around as I meandered my way through “Amazing Journey.”

Her dad ordered a copy of my book as I played, prompting me to think, “Maybe Tribe would have been a bestseller if I had just sat out on a corner and played Neil Young and Who covers.”

Next, it was off to Ballard to meet Jack Endino and Mia Katherine Boyle for breakfast. I have a dog named Mia, and I was tempted to say something stupid like, “Mind if I call you Human Mia?” but fortunately the little man in my brain responsible for shortcircuiting idiotic comments shut that one down before it could escape my lips. (Too bad that little man doesn’t exist in Trump’s brain. Sorry for getting political, but I couldn’t resist.)

We chatted about Jack and Mia’s current musical projects, as well as some of the Sub Pop grunge era reissues…most notably an upcoming U-Men box set primed for 2017. In case you haven’t figured it out, I love the U-Men. The remastered compilation will feature some previously unreleased songs.

I always learn something interesting each time I meet Jack. On this occasion, Jack had just returned from a production gig in Italy and he talked about that country’s fascination with more theatrical proggy-style rock and how music fans there don’t identify with straight-ahead AC/DC-style riff rock.

Mia handed me a CD of her band with Jack called MKB ULTRA along with a t-shirt (yay, t-shirts), we said our goodbyes and I headed back to Capitol Hill. Almost forgot, Jack’s in an improv band with Five called Beyond Captain Orca. The name just seemed so obvious (and apparently was a random utterance by Five’s girlfriend Zinnia Su.) After chilling for most of the day (read: that means taking a long nap…sorry, I’m old. I yell at millenials for their man buns, bushy World War I-style mustaches, and jet packs.)


Later that evening, I met up with former Mudhoney bassist Matt Lukin for beers at a West Seattle bar called The Bridge. Matt might be the most entertaining human being on the planet. I think we high-fived 20 times…about what, I’m not sure. He thinks Mick Harvey is a dick. I didn’t even know who Mick Harvey was until I found out he wrote a song called “Out of Time Man,” which shows up at the end of the first Breaking Bad episode. (I kind of like it…even performed it an open mic a few times.) I know Mick Harvey was in the Bad Seeds. But, apparently he’s also a dick. High five!


(Matt Lukin, apparently embarrassed to be seen with an Eagles fan.)


(Dick’s, a Seattle institution, and where I had dinner.)

It’s been almost a year since I posted anything to this blog, and that means you readers will have one of two reactions: 1) Wow! We’ve been waiting a year for this! Why have you kept us alone in the dark for so long! or 2) (crickets.)

I arrived in Seattle late Thursday evening, October 6. Went to sleep. Exciting, I know. So, let’s start with…

Friday, October 7

I’ve stayed at a few places during my now 15 trips to Seattle…the University Inn in the U-District, the Belltown Inn in (duh) Belltown, Rob Morgan’s couch in Ballard, and on this trip, the 11th Avenue Inn on Capitol Hill. The Inn is a great place to stay…you’re in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood, the cost is reasonable, and it comes with breakfast and free parking. The new Light Rail line has a station two blocks away, which connects you to other neighborhoods as well as the airport.

I usually start with some musical-related interactions, but today I want to begin with a conversation I had with the breakfast chef. He’s in his 30s, I’m guessing. Anyway, we got to talking and it turns out he’s from Texas, but has lived in New York, Germany, and Prague. While in the Czech Republic, he bought a motorcycle and used it to explore the local countryside, as well as Slovakia and Hungary. Later, he moved to Seattle where he now paints and cooks. Moral of the story: talk to people. They’re fascinating.

Ok, enough with the background stuff, let’s get to the music.

I met my friends Leighton Beezer and Five at a vegan cafe called the Wayward in Wallingford. Not my idea, of course. I come from the “eat a fucking burger” school of cuisine, but the Wayward’s food was quite tasty (I think I originally typed “nasty,” but it was good…really) and I enjoyed it. I wanted to interview the pair about their improvisational approach to music-making. Since the Wayward was a bit noisy, we reconvened at Five’s house a few blocks away.

Five has a cat. Everyone in Seattle has a cat. And I’m highly allergic. See the problem here?

So we did our interview on Five’s porch. Before I get on that, a little context is in order.

Leighton was in a grunge era band called the Thrown Ups (that piece of information is now in my wife’s head…one of the useless bits of knowledge I have imparted to her. Once she picked up the home phone and yelled down to me, “Honey. It’s Leighton Beezer from the Thrown Ups.”) The Thrown Ups became the quintessential “fuck band,” in that, other than Leighton himself, the other members looked at it as a side project. The players, at different times, included Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney, and Scott Schickler of Swallow. The Thrown Ups were an improvisational punk band. That is, no songs, no rehearsals. Whatever happened on stage happened. That included heaving oysters at the audience at the Gorilla Gardens and covering themselves in cola-infused mud during a show at the Central Tavern.

But enough about high art. The Thrown Ups represented the essence of all things grunge as it existed in the pre-Nevermind ’80s: get on stage and go for it. To paraphrase Leighton, ‘Don’t worry about whether you’re playing the chorus or the verse. If you forget what you’re doing, jump into the audience. A show that ends up as a train wreck will probably be a better show anyway.’ That freedom, camaraderie, and musical spontaniety exemplified grunge in its pure form. Heavy music was certainly the prequisite, but as Jack Endino once told me, it was more about getting the feeling out than playing the song note for note perfect. The Thrown Ups represented all of that.

I met Leighton for the first time in 2007, at a bar in Belltown called the…damn, I forget, wait, I think it was called the Rendezvous. Anyway, we had a beer before his performance that evening. After we finished, Leighton received a dumbfounded expression from the hostess when he inquired, “Do you know who’s playing tonight, because it might be me.”

Half an hour later, with a patch together crew of players including the aforementioned Five, Leighton’s band took the stage. They gave us 45 minutes of…well, I’m a writer and I can’t really put it into words. They played and it was great. Ok? The musicians fed off each other in a way only artists can, at times featuring cascading crescendoes of noise, and at other times lowering the volume to create some beautiful sonic textures (that sounds like I know what I’m talking about, doesn’t it?)

The next time I saw Leighton was in my hometown of Philadelphia. He played a bar called the…I forget that one…small place, which isn’t there anymore. On South Street, maybe? A small dive bar. Leighton’s band, called Empire Vista played songs that evening. Wow, with vocals and everything! After I wrote a review of that gig, Leighton emailed me: “You thought they were songs?”

For over 30 years, Leighton has focused on developing the concept of a band that won’t rehearse and eschews arranged material. I became fascinated with that concept and decided to interview him and Five about it.

I will post the actual interview shortly, but suffice it to say the conversation opened my eyes a bit. I’ve been playing guitar myself for a long time, badly, but have seriously worked hard at it the last two years, and I’ve become good enough to play a few songs at open mic nights. My teacher Thomas is awesome and has helped me discover talents I never knew I had. Thomas has taught me technique and theory in addition to songs, which he allows me the freedom to change as I see fit.

Five is the anti-Thomas. Five’s approach to teaching guitar is as follows: Grab the instrument, randomly twist the tuning pegs, and then begin playing. Don’t worry if it sounds like crap, it may or not be as such…but the important thing to grasp is, does it sound good to you? Or perhaps better put, does it feel good to you? So playing guitar becomes much more of a spiritual experience than let’s say a mechanical one. I told Five I’d try that approach when I get home.

After that experience, I drove up to Edmonds to catch the ferry over to Kitsap, on Bainbridge Island. Guitarist Derek Burns was throwing a birthday party for Paul Burback, of Before Cars and Paundy, at his house in Hanville. Hanville is apparently Bainbridgian for, “houses in the middle of nowhere.” It’s about a half hour drive from Kitsap, and beautiful does not begin to describe the setting. It feels like you’re sitting out in the woods on an island, probably because you are in the woods on an island.


(About to depart Edmonds for Kitsap on the ferry.)

I arrived early, and Derek offered up some salmon salad he made from his own catch. One of the reasons I love coming here is to explore the pronounced cultural differences between us Easterners and those who call the Northwest home. One of Derek’s friends asked me if I was a fisherman. (Yeah, right. My uncle once took me fishing for flukes off the coast of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. I think we anchored about three quarters of a mile off the shoreline.) These guys were talking about venturing out of the Columbia River and into the Pacific Ocean, sometimes anchoring hundreds of miles from land to fish for tuna. They talked about how fear of the ocean is a healthy thing, it helps keep one alive in a sometimes brutal, unforgivingly massive body of water. I looked at them with an expression that is best described as a combination of admiration and ‘good luck with that.’


(The bustling traffic behind Derek’s house.)

I think what strikes me about these folks is how utterly at ease they are. They are so comfortable with who and where they are…it’s a refreshing change from the city attitude people possess in places like Seattle and Philly. Absolutely no pretense.

Soon, Derek, Paul, and Before Cars/Paundy mate Andy Miller began to jam. (Couple of tidbits…Paundy is the combination of “Paul” and “Andy,” something I didn’t know about until last night. Also, Derek apparently possesses one of Kurt Cobain’s distortion boxes in his living room. I don’t think Derek gives a shit about its late famous owner other than he likes the sound of it.) They rocked out, of course, but in a sort of jazzy, groovy way at times, sometimes more bluesy. No vocals…someone apparently neglected to bring a PA.


(Jam session. From left: Derek, food, Andy, Paul.)

After a while, I became infused with the essence of Derek’s cat. And I began sneezing uncontrollably. And I had to go outside on the porch, where I remained for the rest of the evening. (To riff off a Gallagher bit: “Good thing I have allergies!”) I hung out there until I got too cold, and let the combination of cat reaction and beer dissipate so I could head back to Seattle.

Saturday (today) would be a much quieter day, beginning with a breakfast with Jack Endino and his girlfriend and sometimes bandmate, Mia Katherine Boyle.